The Assumption of the Virgin

The painting served as the altarpiece in the burial chapel in S. Pier Maggiore, Florence, of Matteo Palmieri, a civil servant, depicted kneeling on the left. Opposite him is his widow, Niccolosa, in the habit of a Benedictine nun (the Order which owned the church). The view behind Matteo includes both Florence and Fiesole and also a farm belonging to him; behind Niccolosa there are farms in the hills of Val d'Elsa which were part of her dowry. The painting was probably made around 1475, the date of Palmieri's death.

In the centre the Apostles marvel at the tomb of the Virgin filled with lilies while above Christ receives her into the highest circle of Heaven. Angels are ranged in nine choirs, divided into three hierarchies. The highest of these represent Councillors (Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones), the middle represent Governors (Dominions, Virtues and Powers); then follow the Ministers (Principalities, Archangels and Angels). Unusually, saints have been incorporated into the ranks of angels. This may reflect Palmieri's theological speculations. These were embodied in a poem, the 'Città di Vita', which came to be regarded as heretical.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1446 - 1497
Full title
The Assumption of the Virgin
Date made
probably about 1475-6
Medium and support
Tempera on wood
228.6 x 377.2 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1882
Inventory number
Location in Gallery